Posted by Jay 04-12-17
It has been a crazy week. The Outrunners book is still with Rachel, but may arrive tomorrow (Yes we work Sundays too) or early next week. It is a very long book, 115 k words, as compared to my usual e-Books at around 75k tops. Bigger takes longer. It’s worth waiting for though, I think.
I did a small amount of work on Billy Jingo this past week. I also UN-published all of the short stories and I will compile them into longer works over this winter. A few places will not let digital publishers give away books, so I have to charge the minimum of 0.99 cents per short story. To me it makes more sense to compile all the short stories into a few books and publish them that way. Which would be cheaper overall for you the reader. I also like the idea that if I want to treat you to a short story here in my blog it isn’t a problem with one of the vendors.Some booksellers have rules against offering up anything for free if they are selling it. Sort of makes sense, except sometimes I want to do it and I own the work, so…?
I also worked on my house this week. Man, what a deal that has turned into. Let me explain a little bit so you will understand what I am dealing with.
This whole area is right next to the largest U.S. Army Base for Winter Training in the world. It has always been a big base back to the early part of the century.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s the people that lived around the base were mostly poor people who managed to afford the couple of bucks for an acre of land, but had no money left to take to the lumber mill for the lumber to build a house.
The base used to sell scrap lumber on the weekends. Ammunition boxes, leftover wood from barrack building or tear downs. The base also displaced an entire town so there were (Still are in places) houses standing empty. The base would sell truckloads of lumber for a dollar or two. As a result, many of the houses that were built in this area were built that way.
I knew that coming in to this work. I looked over the house and had a pretty good idea that it was that sort of a build back when it was built in the 1950’s. But the price was great, I couldn’t resist it. Resist should be spelled Idiot!
I stripped out the living room ceiling first. It was a dropped ceiling, I assumed there would be a sagging old plaster type ceiling up underneath it and there was. I pulled that down along with a couple of guys I hired for the week. Let me say this about that. Hire a young guy to do those hard jobs they will work like crazy for you.
So down came the ceiling, but underneath the ceiling was a surprise. The entire ceiling was made of two by four lumber pieced together. And going further the rafters and cross pieces for the roof itself were also made of two by four pieces of lumber. I actually stopped and wondered why in hell the guy did that. Then I remembered this was back in the fifties, there were no building inspectors, codes, etc.
I decided to go ahead and strip out the walls. They appeared weak, flimsy, they were. Turns out, behind the wallboard someone had added in later years, were walls made of cardboard from a refrigerator box with a label from 1954. The cardboard had been nailed to the studs, taped just like wallboard would have been, and then wallpapered. It looked like finished wallboard/sheetrock to me.
So that was where I was a few weeks back when I started this. Since then I have strung all new rafters, crosspieces and built a vaulted ceiling. While I was there I had the wiring replaced too. I mean why not the walls were opened.
It has been interesting. I had intended it to be a project that lasted a few weeks tops and I am far past that, but all the serious stuff is done now. A few more weeks and I should be done with all the major stuff. In the mean time it is fun to once again work with my hands; and once it’s done I probably won’t be doing that again so I am enjoying it.
Today I will give you the Great Go-Cart Race. No it is not a horror story. There are no Zombies in it. Dell wrote this story back in the early 1980’s. It is a story of childhood that is a thinly disguised. I think it’s a good story. I hope you like it. Have a great week and I’ll be back Friday…
The Great Go-Cart Race
by Wendell Sweet all rights reserved
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The Great Go-Cart Race
The summer of 1969 in Glennville New York had settled in full tilt. The July morning was cool and peaceful, but the afternoon promised nothing but sticky heat. Bobby Weston and Moon Calloway worked furiously on the go-cart they had been planning to race down Sinton Park hill, in the old garage behind Bobby’s house. Both boys had grown up in Glennville. Bobby on upper Fig, Moon on lower Fig. And even though they had gone to the same schools and grown up just a block apart, they had only recently become friends. The Go-cart was a project they had devoted the last two weeks to, and it looked as though today would finally see it finished.
By eleven thirty that morning they had the wheels on the go cart, and had dragged it up Sinton Park hill. An old piece of clothesline tied to each side of the two by four the wheels were nailed to served as the steering. One nail pounded through the center board and into the two by four allowed it to turn. It was the best go cart either of them had ever built, and it rolled just fine. The plan was for bobby to give Moon a ten minute head start down the hill. That way he should be at the intersection by the time Bobby got there, they figured, and able to make sure that Bobby got through it in one piece. Just exactly what Moon was supposed to do to stop a car, or Bobby-the go cart had no brakes, except Bobby’s Keds-he didn’t know. They hadn’t figured that part of it out.
“So, how am I supposed to stop a car?” Moon asked. He didn’t want to sound stupid. Most probably Bobby had it all figured out, but Moon couldn’t see it.
“Easy,” Bobby told him, “you don’t. You’d get freakin’ killed.”
“Well, I knew that,” Moon lied.
“See, you’ll be on your bike. You’ll be sittin’ up higher. You’ll see if there’s a car coming, I won’t, on account of how low to the ground I’ll be.”
“I knew that too.” Well, and then what? Moon asked himself.
“So easy. You just yell to me before I get to the intersection, and I cut off to the left and go into the sledding hill instead. You see that way I’ll be going up, instead of down, see?”
“Oh yeah!” Moon said, as it dawned on him. The sledding hill was there. Of course it wasn’t a sledding hill in the summer, but it was a hill, and he could see exactly how it would work. “I knew that too. I just wasn’t sure if that was what you were goin’ to do, or not,” Moon finished.
“Of course you did,” Bobby agreed.
Moon was just getting ready to bike back down to the bottom of the hill, when John Belcher showed up. John Belcher lived on West avenue, and his dad raced stock car out in Lafargville.
As a consequence, John Belcher had the coolest go-cart around. His dad had helped build it. Real tires-they even had air in them-with a real metal axle running from side to side to hold them. That was the best way to do it, Moon had said, when he’d first seen John’s go-cart. That way you didn’t have to worry about the tires falling off when the spikes pulled out, and the spikes always pulled out. It also had a real steering wheel, a real one. Moon had exclaimed over that. His dad, John had told him, had gotten it out of an old boat out at the junk yard.
“Hey,” John said, as he walked up, dragging his go-cart behind him. “Goin’ down?”
“Bobby is,” Moon said respectfully. You had to show a lot of respect to someone who owned a go-cart that cool. “I’m watchin’… At the bottom. So he don’t get killed, or nothin’,” Moon finished.
“Watch for me too?” John asked.
“Sure, man, a course I will. Bobby don’t care, do ya?”
“Uh uh,” Bobby said. “You gonna try for the whole thing?”
“Why, are you?”
“Yeah… Right through the intersection, and if I can all the way downtown. Probly won’t roll enough on the flat part to do that though, but at least through the intersection and as far past it as I can get.”
Sinton Park Hill began at the extreme western end of Glennville, and continued-though somewhat reduced-as State Street Hill all the way to the Public Square three miles from its start.
“Cool!” John said. Now it was his turn to sound respectful. “I dunno, man. If I do it and my dad finds out, he’ll kill me.”
“Well, who’s gonna tell him?” Moon asked. “I won’t, and neither will Bobby.”
“Yeah, but if someone see’s me…”
“Yeah… I’m gonna though,” Bobby said. He could see John was aching to do it.
“Okay… I’m gonna,” John said decidedly.
“Cool!” Moon exclaimed. “Really frickin’ cool!”
John grinned, as did Bobby. “Well,” Bobby said, “guess you better head down, Moony. Moon didn’t need to be told twice. He stood on the pedals, and fairly flew down the hill.
“Think he’s down the bottom yet?” Bobby asked John quietly. They were both sitting at the side of Sinton Park hill. Their sneakers wedged firmly against the black top to hold them. John had allowed ten minutes to tick off, keeping faithful track of the time with his Timex.
“Oughta be,” John said in a whisper, licking his lips.
“Uh uh… Well, a little.”
“Me too… Ready?”
“For real,” Bobby said solemnly.
John didn’t answer, he simply pulled his feet from the pavement, turned and grinned at Bobby, and began to roll away. Bobby followed, both of them hugging the side of the road, as close to the curbing as possible.
It was a slow build up for the first few hundred feet. Sinton park hill didn’t begin to get really steep until you were better than half way down, it was gradual up until that point. Even so, within that first few hundred feet, Bobby realized that everything had changed. John was already a good fifty feet ahead of him, and pulling away fast enough that it was noticeable. They were not going to hit the bottom of the hill at even close to the same time. Moon would have to watch for both of them separately.
John made a sharp curve up ahead, and disappeared from view. Everything, Bobby knew, was sharp curves from here on out, and that would not change until they were well past the halfway point. And, this was much faster than he had thought it would be. Much faster.
He fought with the rope through the curve, but he could no longer keep to the side. He was going to need the entire road.
And if a car came? he asked himself.
He had thought of that, but he had thought he would be able to stay to the side. No time to think. Another curve just ahead, and he had only barely glimpsed John as he had flown around the curve. Just the back tires really. He probably wouldn’t see any more of him at all until they were down at the bottom.
The second curve was not as bad as the first had been. He didn’t try to fight this time, he simply let the go-cart drift as far as it wanted too. He came off the curve and dropped both sneakers to the pavement. Instant heat, and the left one flipped backwards nearly under the two by four that held the rear tires, before he was able to drag it back in.
“Jesus,” he moaned. It was lost in the fast rush of wind that surrounded him. Torn from his throat and flung backwards. He hadn’t even heard it. Another curve, and the Indian trail flashed by on his right.
The Indian trail was just that. An old Indian trail that cut down through the thick trees that surrounded Sinton park. He and Moon had carefully negotiated it several times. The Indian trail was just before the halfway point, he knew. There was a really sharp curve coming up, just before Lookout Point. You could see nearly all of Glennville from there.
He fought the curve. Harder this time. It felt as if he were going at least a million miles an hour. Two million maybe, he corrected himself. And the go-cart was beginning to do a lot more than drift. It was beginning to shake. And, his mind told him, you ain’t even at the fast part yet! Lookout Point flashed by, and he fought his way around the sharp curve, going nearly completely to the other side in order to do it…. Yes I am, he told himself.
The road opened up. A full quarter mile of steep hill lay before him, before the next curve. It would be a sharp one too, but not as bad as the one he’d just come around. John was nowhere to be seen ahead of him. Presumably at and around the next curve already. No cars yet, and hopefully there wouldn’t be any at all. It was Monday, Sinton Park saw most of its business on the weekends, if they’d tried this then…
The quarter mile was gone that quick. This curve, and one more, and the rest was all straight-away. He gritted his teeth, and flashed into the curve.
Halfway through, nearly at the extreme edge of the opposite side of the road, the first raindrop hit him. A small splat, or it would have been. The speed with which he was moving had made it sting. Splat, splat. The tires were nearly rubbing the curbing when he finally came out the other side of the curve and hit a small straight-away. And now fat drops were hitting the pavement.
He sped into the last curve, and this time the wheels didn’t skim the curbing, they seemed glued to it. Screaming in protest as he tore through the wide curve and made the other side. The rain came in a rush. Turning the hot pavement glossy black as it pelted down. He used the rope carefully to guide himself back towards the side of the road. Slipping as he went, but making it. His hands were clinched tightly, absolutely white from the force with which he held the rope.
Straight-away, slightly less than a mile, and far ahead, where the stone pillars marked the entrance to Sinton Park, he watched John fly through the intersection. Nothing… No car. Nothing. He made it. He could make out Moon sitting on his bike at the side of the road. Leaned up against one of the pillars. Moon turned towards him, and then quickly looked away. The hill was flashing by fast. Too fast. He’d never be able to cut into the sledding hill. Not in a million years, and especially not with the road wet like it was.
Halfway. Moon was turning back, waving his arms frantically. Bobby slammed his Keds into the slick surface of the road. Useless, and he dragged them back inside after only a split second. Nothing for it, nothing at all. The intersection was still empty, however, so maybe…
Moon scrambled away from his bike letting it fall, and sprinted for the middle of the road, but he was far too late. And even if he hadn’t been, Bobby told himself as he flashed by him, the go-cart probably would’ve run him over.
“Truck!” Moon screamed as Bobby flew past him. He stumbled, fell, picked himself up, and ran back towards the stone entrance post, watching the intersection as he went.
The truck, one of the lumber trucks from Jackson’s Lumber on Fig street, made the intersection in a gear grinding, agonizingly, slow shuffle, before Bobby did. Bobby laid flat, and skimmed under the front tires.
Moon stopped dead, the handlebars in one rain slicked hand, and his mouth flew open as he watched. The undercarriage was just above his head, and if he hadn’t laid down…
Moon watched, frozen, as Bobby shot out the other side as neatly as if he had planned it, the back tires missing him by mere inches, and suddenly Bobby was well on his way towards State street hill, and…
Moon grabbed the handle bars tighter, flipped the bike sideways and around, and pedaled off after him as fast as he could.
Bobby raised his head quickly. He had truly believed it was over. He’d been praying, in fact. He hadn’t expected to make it all. He fought his way to the side of the road, and watched as far ahead, John slipped over the top of State Street Hill, and headed towards Public Square.
There were cars here, and more than a few blew their horns as he slipped slowly by on the side of them. He dragged his feet. Pushing as hard as he could, but managing to slow down very little. The top of the hill came and went, and reluctantly he pulled his feet back once more, and hugged the curbing. The only problem would be from cars cutting off the side streets.
The rain began to slack off, as he started down the hill-a brief summer down pour, they had them all the time, but the road was still wet-at least he could see better. The rear of the go-cart suddenly began to shimmy. He risked a quick backwards glance. Very quick, but it was enough to show him that the rubber was shredding from the tire on the outside, and it was also beginning to wobble. The spikes were coming out, and if that happened…
He pushed it away, and began to concentrate on the side streets that seemed to be flashing by every couple of seconds. Oak, Elm, Sutter, Hamilton. Nothing and nothing, and thank God. The rubber went a few seconds later. He could hear the metal rim ringing as it bit the wet pavement. The hill began to flatten. State Street Hill was nowhere near as long as Sinton Park Hill, and thank God for that too. Finally, he slipped past Mechanic street, and the hill flattened out. He could see John ahead, coasting slowly to a stop nearly in front of the First Baptist Church that held a commanding presence of the Public Square. He watched as John finally stopped, got out, and looked back. Moon whizzed past, standing on the pedals, screaming as he went.
“We did it! We freakin’ did it!”
Bobby smiled, a small smile, but it spread to a wide grin. So wide that it felt as though his whole lower jaw was going to fall off. His stuck out his much abused Keds for the last time, and coasted to a stop behind John’s go-cart.
“Man, did’ya see it? When ya went under th’ truck, Holy cow, for real, did ya see it? I thought you were, like, dead, man, for real!” Moon said as he ran up, John along with him.
John looked pale, really pale, Bobby saw. He supposed he looked the same.
“Under a truck?” John asked. “A freaking truck? A real one?”
“For real. Scout’s honor,” Moon told him. “It almost ripped his head off. I saw it! For real! Next time I do it,” Moon declared as he finished.
“Next time?” John asked. He looked at Bobby.
“Uh uh,” Bobby said. “There ain’t ever gonna be a next time, Moony, right, John?”
“For real. Uh uh. No way. Not ever.”
Moon smiled. “Well, too bad, cause I woulda… For real.”
Bobby looked at John. “Did you know it would go so fast? How fast were we going, Moony?”
“No way,” John said softly.
“Probly… Forty, at least forty.” Moon said confidently.
“You think so?”
“Could be,” John agreed, “cause like the speed limit is thirty five, and we were passing cars, and that was on State Street Hill, not Sinton,” he opened his eyes wide as he finished.
“Hey, maybe fifty,” Moon assured them.
“Did it look scary to you?” Bobby asked.
“Scary? Uh… Yeah, it did. I thought you guys were dead, for real. I was pedalin’ as fast as I could, but it took a long time to catch you. Was it?”
Bobby looked at John. “Yeah,” they said, nearly at the same time.
“Really scary,” John added.
They all fell silent. John, Bobby noticed, seemed to be getting some color back in his face.
“Wanna go buy some Cokes?” Moon asked at last.
“Can’t,” John said, “no money.
“We’ll buy,” Moon said, smiling once more. He helped drag both go-carts up over the curbing, and turn them around. Moon rode his bike, as Bobby and John pulled the go-carts behind them.
They rehashed the entire ride as they walked towards Jacob’s Superette. Laughing, the terror already behind them.
Later that day when Bobby and Moon finally made it back to Fig street. They stuck the go-cart in the old garage behind Bobby’s house. They talked about it from time to time, even went in the garage and looked at it occasionally, but they never rode down Sinton Park Hill, or any other hill, with it again. It sat there until the fall of 1982 when Bobby himself dragged it out to the curb and left it with the weekly garbage.
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